What do I wear- and pack? That is the first thing on my mind is when I am planning a getaway to the Carmel/ Monterey area. It can be tricky as it’s a California coastal area, but more often than not can be chilly, though sunny. Because it is California so you’ll see a lot of cool looks that are stylish like this outfit above worn by Ashley Olsen, which is so Carmel to me, with a casual luxe vibe.
The original post on this was written in 2012, after a little getaway to Carmel to celebrate my husband’s birthday. It has become so popular I have updated it over the years. As a Bay Area and Northern Cal gal we get there a lot, so I feel qualified to advise. The photo above, in Pebble Beach, was from my latest trip there, October 2019. Fall is actually a warmer time than summer often!
You’re going to love this area and if you pack the right things, enjoy it too. This updated post has some newer links and photos to help you plan a trip in 2021 and beyond!
Carmel is one of the most gorgeous places on the planet and I am continually thrilled by its beauty on each trip. I am so fortunate to live here in Northern California and be so close. When I say Carmel, I also mean the whole Monterey Peninsula area, which encompasses Carmel by the Sea, Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel Valley in the hills to the East.
You could be staying in the warm and sunny Carmel Valley, but will most likely end up at some point in the foggier and cooler town of Carmel, too. For this reason you need to pack for two climates! I kid you not . If you don’t believe me try spending a day in town here and you will see how many Carmel sweatshirts are sold to tourists. It’s not unusual to see winter coats and sweaters worn here especially during summer time. Carmel Valley, up the road about 20 minutes from Carmel is a warm wine region and not unlike Napa and Sonoma. So you really have to think before packing.
Most of my visits to Carmel I have wandered around like Jennifer Aniston above, with sandals, yet burrowed up in a big sweater!
Carmel is a cosmopolitan place where people dress very well, but casual. Carmel Valley tends to be a horsier set where as Carmel by the Sea, is a little more luxe. Monterey where the aquarium and Cannery Row are, is super casual.
Bottom line…This is the capital of casual chic. People dress well, even though they are dressed down.
What to pack for a weekend in Carmel and Monterey. . .
White jeans. Even in winter. They look great with heavy sweaters and pea coats.
These slouchy white Boyfriend Jeans from J. Crew are my current favorites.
Alternatively, khaki or black jeans.
These Madewell black jeans– are cute and versatile -with sandals or boots.
Blue jeans of course…
I love the mix of straw bag and sweater – and sweater plus sandals..A little summer and winter together works by the sea.
I love this classic straw bag with a leather handle by J. Crew – the perfect tote to pair with your sweater and for travel.
This woven leather bag is another casual tote that’s luxe looking.
Button down shirt in white or denim for day. Great for layering with chunky sweaters. Can also double a a cover-up by the pool if it’s longer.
Comfy flats. I always have a pair of ballet flats and a cute pair of tennis shoes.
These suede Pumas are another cute option too..
And these New Balance are quite popular..and also a neutral.
Ballet flats are another good thing to have on hand and a good a sneaker alternative. Love the look and shape of these Sam Edelmans, which come in a few colors..and also these classics by Tory Burch and these are a modern update on the ballet flat with many pretty shades.
Flip flops for the pool or beach. I have this pair of Tory Burch that have lasted three years. For the cost they make everything look California casual chic and upgraded. Great to wear to the spa or breakfast as well.
If you want to go a little more luxe this Gucci pair is very Carmel…
Throw in a pair of heeled sandals for evenings if you feel like dressing up. Streets are hilly in Carmel by the sea. Heels can work for dinner only if you aren’t walking there . Heels will look ridiculous during the day and are impractical with the hills here and the beach.
Cozy cardigan or wrap for cool days and around the room as a robe over your night clothes. Any cashmere wrap is also perfect for that and layering! This sweater is similar to below..
Even warmer light quilted or puffer jacket, moto jacket, blazer or trench to layer. These Herno puffers are gorgeous and very popular in Carmel. If you need something less pricey Uniqlo has other great options.
Here I am a few years ago with my son wearing a scarf and my trench coat in late summer!
Swimsuit. I always prefer a tankini or a bikini with a rash guard to layer. This is a flattering tank I love and another by Tory is a classic and beautifully made suit and this is universally flattering and and cute.
Cute cover-up, ( I love this shirt style , in so many pretty prints from J. Crew and also this shorter one ) hat for the beach walk and tote for the pool or spa if there is one. I have this hat I always take to Carmel and a close copy is here.
For dinners dress warmly. Almost all evenings are cool in Carmel, once the fog rolls in. A pretty blouse paired with black pants or even a soft sweater is the norm.
I think you can’t go wrong with a black pant/ sweater combo for dinners – chic and warm.
A chunky cable-knit or similar sweater. Cute with shorts- or jeans, depending on the day.
One casual skirt or shorts should the weather turn warm. One of my favorite looks is denim shorts and a long-sleeved T or sweater. Perfect for places by the coast where the weather is sunny yet cool. This Anthro khaki skirt is cute with sneakers or sandals, as would be this embroidered denim cutie.
One handbag that can go from day to night. A cross-body could do double duty.
Cozy pants and soft T-shirt for lounging around the room. PJs could also work. I do like to have something cute and warm with me to wear to breakfast without getting dressed for the day yet.
Yoga pants or leggings and a wrap sweater could work with a soft T for breakfast. Add boots to your leggings and a swingy sweater or poncho and you have an outfit…
Any of these looks would be perfect for a day in Carmel or Monterey. Some outfit inspiration for you..
Don’t forget to pack a great read for the pool side ,or by the fire. ( I always try to get to River House Books at The Crossroads Shopping Center. Amazing small bookstore!)
Other shops not to miss…
Tancredi & Morgan for gorgeous homewares, clothes and jewelry. I can never leave without some small treasure from this wonderfully curated store.
Carmel Bay Company a fun California home and gift store. You’re sure to find a great souvenir here.
Lloyd’s Shoes always something cool and unique I want to add to the closet in the windows.